Are you sensitive to the ‘G’ word? How many people do you know that have stopped eating gluten because they suspect they have gluten intolerance? Maybe you have done this yourself. Increasingly, more and more people no longer eat grains containing gluten because they experience a range of digestive symptoms, particularly bloating.
The incidence of Coeliac disease is on the rise. But in addition to those diagnosed with coeliac disease there are many more with a gluten sensitivity. Gluten intolerance is an inability to digest the protein gluten found in some grains. One study done by the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota showed that intolerance of wheat gluten is four times more common today that it was in the 1950’s.
In order to stop the effects of undigested gluten on their body, the gluten intolerant must avoid eating these foods. In this gluten sensitivity resemble Coeliac disease.
Gluten sensitivity causes inflammation. When there’s also an autoimmune response where the immune system starts to attack the body, it’s called Coeliac disease. The New England Journal of Medicine lists thirty-five diseases caused by gluten sensitivity. They include ADHD and depression. We are now quite concerned about the increase in chronic disease related to poor diet. So it is significant that gluten sensitivity increases your risk for Type 1 Diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal cancers, brain disorders, autism and thyroid disease. Unfortunately, your risk of developing these diseases increases dramatically when proper diagnosis of gluten intolerance is delayed.
MORE GLUTEN IN MODERN WHEAT
Modern wheat is different to old wheat varieties. The proportion of gluten in wheat has increased enormously due to hybridization in modern wheat grains. Also, prior to the 19th Century wheat was always mixed with other grains, legumes or nuts when it was milled. Pure refined white flour has only been around for about 200 years.
The modern Western diet is quite grain heavy and so the consumption of gluten has also significantly increased . Many people may have developed their gluten sensitivity because they have been overexposed to it. Gluten is added purposefully to products because it increases the hunger signals in the body and so you want to eat more of that product. I have heard, although haven’t verified, that up to ten times the amount of naturally occurring gluten is added to fluffy, white packaged bread.
When foods are in their natural state the components work synergistically. They balance each other and work together harmoniously. But removing one component of the wholefood makes it more difficult for the body to metabolise the food properly. This is why you’re constantly encouraged to eat ‘Whole Foods’. It is because they are balanced.
DO YOU HAVE A GLUTEN INTOLERANCE?
Signs that might indicate you might have gluten intolerance.
- The most obvious signs are gastrointestinal. They include bloating, wind, cramping, queasiness and nausea, constipation or diarrhea or both of them alternating.
- Headaches and migraines
- Connective tissue (tendons, ligaments) or muscle aches and pains
- Dizziness, balance problems
- Tingling or numbness in your fingers and toes
- Pain or weakness in the extremities
- Sudden mood shifts, chronic irritability, depression
- Tiredness and fatigue, either chronic or occurring after every meal, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Weight loss and weight gain
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycles and miscarriage
- Symptoms get worse with emotional trauma and stress
The difficulty is that these symptoms are common to many diseases. Therefore it becomes difficult to definitely attribute them to gluten sensitivity. You don’t actually need to be diagnosed with any specific disease, like CFS or Fibromyalgia, or a gluten sensitivity to test whether your symptoms are due to gluten in your diet. If you are experiencing these symptoms it is worth investigating whether gluten is behind them.
HOW TO DISCOVER IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO GLUTEN
If you are trying to work out if gluten is your enemy it is really important to be systematic. Write down every symptom that you experience. Don’t dismiss any because you make assumptions about them. Symptoms such as aches and pains may not be from sitting or exercising too much. Include everything and don’t try and explain them.
Then go onto a gluten free diet for a couple of months. This can be harder than it seems because it doesn’t simply mean eating gluten free bread. Gluten is found hidden in many, many foods. It can be difficult to always recognise the presence of gluten in a particular food. It is worth consulting a Natural Medicine practitioner who has experience with food sensitivities to guide and support you through the process.
After you have been off gluten for a couple of months check how many of the symptoms on your list you still experience. If a number of them have improved it might be worth continuing with the gluten free diet for longer. You may find that only a few symptoms have gone. However, if they’re symptoms that cause you significant hardship or annoyance it is worth keeping gluten free.
If you are sensitive to gluten, it’s likely that after being gluten free for a while your symptoms will return if you begin eating foods containing gluten again.
Wheat is only one of the grains containing gluten. Other gluten grains are barley, rye, spelt, kamut (Khorasan), oats and triticale. Other grains including buckwheat, millet, amaranth, rice, and quinoa are gluten free and you can use them freely.
If you decide that you can’t possibly go gluten free then it’s quite possible you are gluten intolerant. Foods we’re addicted to are often ones we have a problem with. This is due to a chemical reaction which occurs in our brain when we eat them, causing us to crave them even more.
Do you suspect you may have a gluten intolerance?
Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only. They are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation with your health care provider. Do not use this article to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think your condition may be serious or before discontinuing any prescribed medication. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.